A Vision of the Past – Creating the Thrivers of the Future

“As we move into the 21st century, we need to prepare our children for the information age. Parents’ roles will now need to focus on helping their children navigate the information highway. The computer age will require students become adept at problem solving and time-management. Technology is changing so fast that more than likely the textbook your children are using right now is almost obsolete. The skills that made one successful in school, such as memorization and regurgitation of data is also obsolete. Though there may be a need for memorization of some information, students need to focus on the value of their questions and begin using them to lead to new discoveries. They need to work at solving challenges independent of others until they find solutions. Tenacity needs to be valued over recall of information. Applying the empowering skills that make up the Homework Solutions Approach to learning are what students will need to move into the new millennium ready to compete with the best.”

When I reluctantly wrote this 25 years ago, I had no way of forecasting Covid 19. i just had felt a strong need for a change in educational practices of the time. Covid dramatically demonstrated that is the case. Our focus needs to shift to teaching children how to be resilient and be able to thrive in a world that is changing exponentially everyday. The skills I share with parents and teachers are easy to implement and integrate into already established curriculum. The most exciting news for parents and teachers is, after three months of training in self-reliant strategies, students cover more material and retain more of it than ever before. It reduces the need for reteaching.

A Little History- How did we get here?

In the late 1970’s education began involving aides and parents to assist in the goal of getting our children ahead and making sure every child’s needs were met. It was a great idea with good intentions, but the methods did not deliver the desired results. In fact it resulted in less engagement on the part of students. Many teachers felt the increase in inattentive students and the growing lack of creativity was due to the change in children programming on television.

The pressure to prove schools were performing resulted in increased testing. This added undo stress and anxiety for the teachers and students. I pained for my own children who felt the pressure their teachers were under. I couldn’t be the “teach to the test” kind of teacher, so I left public education to find a place where I could do what I love, ignite a love of learning and empower students to become future change makers.

It turned out to be the best move for me, because I found Dr. Hathaway’s school. The Pegasus School was innovative. It was a place where it was okay to be smart. We focused on student’s strengths while strengthening their weaknesses. There were no grades, but we were sure to meet the state standards for our grade level. We only used standardized testing once a year to meet the requirements to maintain our license. We were left to our own devices to create a learning environment that would support the unique makeup of our classes. Our common goal was to motivate students to be the change makers of the future. 35 years later, we our proud to say we were successful.

I was given the task to provide my students with what I felt they needed to meet the demands of a world that was changing. Having taught children in different socioeconomic environments, I knew what had to be shared to guarantee their success in the real world. It wasn’t how to pass tests. When working in the inner city, I wanted to explore what my students would need to become future business owners, so I read Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and books by Zig Zigler, Brian Tracy, and Napoleon Hill.

As a result of studying the best in the field of success authors, the following were the skills that became the focus of the new third grade program along with the policy that parents would no longer help with homework:

  • Time Management: Proper Prior Planning and Practice to Prevent a Poor Performance which Promotes Powerful Prevailers
  • Executive Skills
  • Stress Management
  • Device Management: How to control the device instead of it controlling the user.
  • Personal Learning Style and Unique Learning Needs: How do I learn and what do you need to ask for to get your needs met?
  • Communication Skills to Promote Self-advocacy and Successful Collaboration: Understanding of why it is important to ask clarifying questions and how to ask questions to get support needed.
  • Critical Thinking: Education in Propaganda and Advertising Techniques to Create Wise Consumers: Youth are the number one target of advertisers.
  • Mistake Management: Embracing mistakes as opportunities to find a better way. They will never be viewed as failures.
  • The Art of Effective Questioning: Guarantees no child is left behind. Used for attaining clarification and finding solutions to challenges.
  • How to Apply Engaged Listening: Children are told to listen, but never taught how to listen.
  • Daily Journaling: Tapping into the subconscious mind. This is where answers to questions would appear and creative ideas would emerge.
  • How to tap into their innate ability to solve challenges without adult or internet assistance. This one skill allowed my students in 2020 to transition effortlessly to a new and foreign form of instruction. They helped me co-create a program that worked for us and it was one that was created without the help of the internet, because the answers weren’t there. It was the most empowering event in my entire teaching career that built the most confidence. The bigger the challenge, the greater the feeling of accomplishment. Confidence Soars!
  • Focus on growth and how well they overcame challenges
  • Economic Literacy: Earn money, save money, spend money, create a business, become an advertiser
  • Testing was used to determine effectiveness of study methods, how to manage stress, how to use a test to support memory recall. “What did you learn from this test? What did you learn from the mistakes that were made?”

25 years later, skeptics of the program are its biggest supporters. The true test of the value of a program is if it is memorable and impactful on the students.

We continually hear from alumni who credit their achievement to the school, and always mention something about the third grade skills that contributed to their success.

Last week, I heard from one student that attributed her success to a visualization she did in third grade when asked to see herself in the future. Unlike some of her classmates who saw themselves as NFL or NBA players, Olympic champions, or famous actresses, she saw herself helping those in need of better help care. Her foundation and the work she is currently doing today grew into what it is today because of the seed she planted in third grade.

Another former third grader applied to the school for a very important job planning the fundraisers that fund the school. When asked what qualified her for the position, she stated, “I was taught how to do ‘Proper Prior Planning and how to Pivot, Persevere, and Problem Solve and Prevail” in third grade.”

Another student credited her successful college career to the relationships she developed with professors. ‘I learned in third grade how important it was to talk to my teachers when I didn’t understand something. I am probably the only one in my classes that make use of the professors’ office hours.” (My goal was to help students overcome the fear of interacting with teachers.)

“I learned in third grade that if you see a problem, don’t complain about it, try to find a solution. When I was told I couldn’t sell my marshmallow shooters in my class business, I took them to the beach and sold them for $35 a piece. I was mad at first, but Ms. O. asked me to see this as a gift and figure out how to make it work for me. I am successful because I think about that every time I hit a roadblock.”

One student created a solar powered refrigeration system for villages in Africa, so they could keep the food from spoiling that they grew through hydroponic systems. He knew how to tap into his innate ability to find solutions others had not thought about.

The students who went through the third grade program had a year to learn how to fail, so they could succeed. They learned how to thrive and become resilient at the young age of 8. Their younger siblings learned at a much younger age. The parents saw the value of coaching their children in success rather than doing the work with them or, in some cases, for them. They began using these strategies with their toddlers.

I was grateful to find The Pegasus School in 1995, where I could design a program dedicating a whole year to life skills training for third graders. It was the opportunity that allowed me to create a program that would serve students of the 21st century in ways that traditional education would not. It is the sole reason my 8 and 9 year old students thrived in 2020.

Overcoming Resistance

“It doesn’t matter what others think. If you know this is what feels right to you, ignore them and don’t worry about them. Eventually they will see the results.” 1994

This was my dad’s advice when I received resistance from teachers and parents who did not understand the value of the program.

Many teachers and parents held the belief that the only way students could be successful was if parents and teachers helped them. Many teachers relied on the parents to provide individual instruction for their own children, which reduced their own work. Unfortunately, not all parents were equipped to teach their own children. As a teacher, I found it impossible to work with my own children. Teachers were not aware of the stress this new responsibility was placing on parents.

After a few years of quietly training my students in resilience strategies, the fourth and fifth grade teachers began noticing a difference in how my students would self-advocate and knew how to schedule themselves. When this was shared with my teammates, they decided the entire third grade should participate in this training. It wasn’t long before the middle school teachers could tell which children arrived after third grade. They had a harder time managing the middle school workload.

Fast forward 15 years, the one teacher who gave the most resistance to the program was recognized by two former successful students for teaching them a few of the success skills she adopted. I guess you can say she became a believer. After adapting to the program, she stated, “This is so easy, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it.”

Shifting the parental role from homework teacher to that of mentor in life skills, my students learned to ask questions for clarification, self-advocate when they needed help, manage their time and plan projects to meet deadlines, manage their papers so they always presented me quality work, celebrated their mistakes as opportunities. They knew what they needed to succeed and their parents were amazed at how quickly they grew in confidence. “The best part of this program is I don’t have to yell at my children and our home has become a much more peaceful place. I’m enjoying parenting for the first time since my eldest was born.”

Thought to Ponder

It is no longer true that college is the answer to a successful life. Businesses need forward thinkers. They aren’t going to test our student’s abilities to take tests. They are looking for problem solvers who look to the past and learn from it, but who tap into their own innate abilities to create out-of-the-box solutions for the future.

Begin today, by asking your children how they would solve a challenge. Open the door to creativity that has been shut for 40 years.

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